SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — A powerful magnitude-8.0 earthquake struck in off Chile’s northern coast Tuesday night, and authorities ordered an evacuation of coastal areas in case of a tsunami. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake struck 61 miles (99 kilometers) northwest of the city of Iquique at 8:46 p.m., shaking a region that has been rocked by numerous quakes over the past two weeks.
The latest tremor also shook buildings in parts of the nearby nations of Bolivia and Peru. Waves measuring almost 2 meters (6 ½ feet) already were striking cities on the northern coast.
A tsunami was expected to reach nearby cities throughout the night, and local TV images showed residents evacuating calmly. Chile’s Emergency Office said a large tsunami wave was expected to hit the island of Juan Fernandez just before midnight local time.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued an alert for all of Latin America’s Pacific coast.
Chile is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries. A magnitude-8.8 quake and ensuing tsunami in central Chile in 2010 killed more than 500 people, destroyed 220,000 homes, and washed away docks, riverfronts and seaside resorts.
The strongest earthquake ever recorded on Earth also happened in Chile — a magnitude-9.5 tremor in 1960 that killed more than 5,000 people.
Hundreds of earthquakes have shaken Chile’s far-northern coast in the past two weeks, keeping people on edge as scientists said there was no way to tell if the unusual string of tremors was a harbinger of an impending disaster.
The unnerving activity began with a strong magnitude-6.7 quake on March 16 that caused more than 100,000 people to briefly evacuate low-lying areas, although no tsunami materialized and there was little physical damage from the shaking.